Londoners love their city and not for commuting or the constant stream of tourists but for all that there is to do in their downtime. A trip to the markets on a Sunday for vintage bargains, fresh flowers and global cuisine is how Londoners do it. Culture Trip curates the best so you can explore like the local people do.
Old Spitalfields Market is an East London favourite that’s occupied the same plot for the best part of 350 years. Just a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street, this market is the place to go if you’re after a great gift or for some bits around the house, such as a map or a dreamcatcher, as it has 88 market stalls stocking everything from artworks to handmade jewellery and dog clothes. After dwindling time away, there are also numerous food stalls to enjoy – with highlights being the Neapolitan pizza and Turkish wraps.
Taking up the northern part of its namesake lane, Brick Lane Market is loved for its bric-a-brac and bargains. Every Sunday, you can expect jewellery sellers to pitch up next to vintage clothing rails, tables of sunglasses and stacks of antique chairs. A hot tip is to keep an eye out for what’s laid out on the blankets on the ground. Recent years have seen the street market come to incorporate several indoor markets under its umbrella, including The Tea Rooms, Backyard Market, Sunday Upmarket, Boiler House and the Vintage Market – all of which are featured below.
Yes, you can get tea and cake at The Tea Rooms, but there’s much more to this indoor Brick Lane market. Tucked away from the bustle of Brick Lane, this smallish space has been dubbed the “Aladdin’s cave of furniture, collectables and antiques” for the variety it stocks. Look hard enough, and you’ll find all sorts of things, such as pre-loved cameras, vinyl records and jewellery.
Since 2006, Backyard Market has dedicated itself to showcasing and selling the very best in local arts and crafts. It does so across 80 stalls in its bright and spacious warehouse – with highlights including silver jewellery designs and wall art. It’s the place to go for one-off pieces.
Sunday Upmarket has been drawing in crowds since 2004. Pitching up in The Old Truman Brewery above the Brick Lane Vintage Market, Sunday Upmarket is known for its buzz surrounding more than 140 traders. The highlights? Its foodie selection. Think Ethiopian coffee, hand-rolled sushi, Japanese sweets and fried plantain sandwiches.
Boiler House Food Hall is where the peckish should make their pit stops when shopping on Brick Lane. Why? Well, you’ve got global cuisine at your fingertips – whether that’s Ethiopian, Chinese or Malaysian. Plus, it’s incredibly affordable, and there’s a secret beer garden out the back.
Brick Lane’s Vintage Market is a treasure trove for great vintage finds. This market, which is open seven days a week, with Sundays being the busiest, is known for covering all the style grounds. Dresses from the 1920s sit next to reworked sports jerseys from the 1990s. The trick is to leave a good couple of hours to explore.
Camden Market is on par with Brick Lane for its thrifting landscape, its bric-a-brac and the great market food up for grabs, such as pizza and traditional fish and chips. In the clothing department, there’s an emphasis on the alternative, such as fine corsetry, gothic get-up and designs for raving. You’ll find a lot of stalls are also focused on the supernatural – expect tarot card readings and rose quartz crystals.
Camden Lock is a London icon. But do you know how this waterside retail site began? What stands today as a market of individual traders was once a run-down packaging warehouse that punk rockers were known to frequent back in the 1970s. You can expect to get all sorts of crafts, souvenirs and antiques here.
Camden’s Stables Market, indeed, takes its name from its former glory as a horse hospital during the Victorian times. A life-size bronze horse marks this time, yet today, 450 stalls take up the plot. Much like the other Camden market destinations, you’ll come across antiques, accessories and clothing.
Over in East London, Chatsworth Road Market has been going since the 1930s. It did, however, start to decline after World War II, before stopping completely in 1990. It was 2010 when this market started up again. Come hungry as the traders sell everything from gourmet street food to organic free-range meats and cakes. Favourites include Le Moulin Bakery for pastries and Raw Cheese Power for artisan Alpine cheeses.
On any given Sunday in East London, you’ll see droves of people balancing plants and succulents with artisan coffee. You can thank Columbia Road Flower Market for this. It’s almost unchanged since Victorian times, with every sort of bulb, herb, moss, cactus, shrub, chilli and house plant up for sale. It runs until 3pm, with most sellers reducing their prices around that time to shift stock.
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Set in what used to be an ancient village on a UNESCO World Heritage site, Greenwich Market has a storied past. It received a royal charter in 1700 that permitted it to operate for another 1,000 years – and it’s still going strong. There are all sorts of stalls here, from arts and crafts to vintage items and literature. Elsewhere, leave time for a home-made scone with a cup of tea.
Don’t let the name of this market confuse you – Petticoat Lane Market is actually located on Middlesex Street in Spitalfields. While the market is still known for its vast offering of clothes, you’ll also find toiletries, cleaning supplies, fabrics and children’s toys.
Though it’s smaller compared to some other London markets, Northcote Road Antiques merits its own little shout-out. It’s one of the most diverse antiques markets in the UK, with one-of-a-kind trinkets being its forte. Anticipate grandfather clocks, handcrafted crystal decanters, rocking chairs and golden candlesticks.